Forrer v. Sears, Roebuck & Co.
- P was employed by D for 18 years. Due to poor health, P quit his job and operated a farm instead.
- Agents of the D recruited P to come back to work.
- Manager of Madison store promised P "permanent employment" as manager of the hardware division of that store if P would give up his farming operations.
- P sold all his stock, rented out his barn, and put his land in a feed program -- all at a loss.
- After 4 months, D fired P without cause.
- Lower court found for D.
- Affirmed on appeal, found for D.
- Does an employee who incurs a detriment in order to gain employment have the right to remain employed after the employer promises "permanent employment" in return for that detriment?
- A permanent employment contract is terminable at will unless there is additional consideration in the form of an economic or financial benefit to the employer (i.e. employee buys equipment for employer to use on the job).
- From Hoffman v. Red Owl Stores, three questions must be answered affirmatively to support an action for promissory estoppel:
- Was the promise one which the promisor should reasonably expect to induce action or forbearance of a definite and substantial character on the part of the promisee?
- Did the promise induce such action or forbearance?
- Can injustice be avoided only be enforcement of the promise?
- In this case, the third question cannot be answered affirmatively because the defendant kept its promise and gave the P permanent employment.
- A contract for permanent employment where the employee furnishes no consideration additional to the services required by the employment amounts to an indefinite hiring terminable at the will of either party, and a discharge without cause does not constitute a breach of contract.
- It would be unreasonable for someone to bind himself to a position permanently, eliminating the possibility of improving his position.
- Once the employment was given to the P, the promise was fulfilled.
- This case would probably be decided differently today.
- This court was stretching for this result because they wanted to preserve the cultural norm that employment at will is terminable at any time.
- This is bad contract doctrine.